His body slightly damaged, 31-year-old three-time world absolute BJJ champion Roger Gracie buys a snack at the airport while waiting for his flight back to London. The UFC athlete picks up his cellphone and, with a reflexive, serene voice, talks about his losing debut that took place last Saturday in Las Vegas – a unanimous decision going to Tim Kennedy, also a former Strikeforce fighter.
“The stamina ran out,” he sums up as soon as he picks up, simple and direct like his ground game.
In the conversation below, he explains the reasons for his tiredness and the critical points of the bout. He even talks about the fear of being knocked out.
GRACIEMAG: The fight didn’t go half bad on the ground, and you put Tim on the bottom twice in the first round. What was the missing piece that prevented the submission?
ROGER GRACIE: Tim Kennedy gets the credit, as he defended his back and neck competently. It’s not so easy to submit someone with the gloves – he kept stopping me sliding my hand. I noticed the choke wasn’t coming easily, so I waited until about 20 seconds left to go for a kata-gatame or for the arm. Renzo was shouting the time and I was aware of it. I didn’t want to risk the move slipping and ending up on the bottom too long, which is why I waited. But I couldn’t tighten it and he got out. But I haven’t even seen the fight yet, there was no time.
When did you start feeling tired?
Between rounds one and two, I felt my body hadn’t recovered. I was getting more and more tired and didn’t feel the recovery coming. It was an effect of the weight loss. It’s a process my body has yet to get used to. The first time I dropped to 185 pounds I got very tired. But in my previous fight I felt great. And this time I got even lighter, I had no problem losing the weight during the week, and thought I’d be all right for Saturday. But I got tired on the day of the fight. I gotta look at my training. I don’t think about moving up in class, so I have to deal with this fight with the scale.
How did your head behave once the oxygen ran out? You still got a takedown in round three, but you were handicapped…
In round one, I used a lot of strength to hold him and then take him down twice. In round two, there was a shuffle where he got on top and I had to struggle to reverse it. After the midpoint of round two, things got bad. I got so tired I thought I was going to collapse if he really came at me to knock me out. I was exhausted. But I think he got a little tired too and so he didn’t hit me so much.
In Jiu-Jitsu, you became known for reversing unfavorable situations and never quitting, even after losses at black belt – for instance, in your first WC when you lost the final to Marcio Pé de Pano. And how about now in the UFC?
It’s gonna be the same. I’m going home to see my family and should be back to training this week. The routine is nonstop, the quest to become a better fighter continues. I’ll get stronger with the lessons. In August I’m going to Brazil to assist Lyoto Machida in his UFC 163 bout in Rio [versus Phil Davis].